I am an unapologetic morning person and lover of breakfast.Ask me what the perfect food is? I will answer breakfast burrito almost every time. Every Sunday my boyfriend and I sit down for breakfast at one of the Original Pancake Houses in the South Bay. My boyfriend, the obsessive pancake lover, always orders the same thing: four buttermilk pancakes and two eggs over easy. I tried a number of different items: potato pancakes, buckwheat pancakes, the Dutch baby, ham and eggs, and a disastrous salami omelette. What do I stick with now? Two eggs, bacon, and toast. Add endless cups of coffee and it's a solid breakfast.
As much as I enjoy the Original Pancake House or the buttery poppy seed pastries at the locally owned Flour Flower just down the street, San Jose has nothing on Santa Cruz for breakfast.
Here is a breakdown of my favorite Santa Cruz breakfast places:
Located blocks from the beach in the same shopping center as a specialty butcher shop and a wine tasting room, Kelly's Bakery is known more for their exquisite French pastries and loaves than they are for breakfast. Be aware, though, this does not stop patrons from lining out the door for a meal on a weekend morning.
What to order? After trying a couple of things at Kelly's (bread pudding, granola, polenta with eggs), I hit gold with the smoked salmon and poached eggs. The eggs are perfectly molded mounds of eggs atop thin slices of smoked salmon served on toasted bread with sliced avocado.
If the weather is good, enjoy the sunshine and salt air sitting outside. Threatening clouds or rain, sit inside. It's pretty cozy in there.
Firefly Coffee House
I used to live down the street from this place; it's one of those neighborhood places I wish I could transport anywhere. Tucked behind the Kaiser Permanente Temporary Stadium, home of the Santa Cruz Warriors, and a cosmetology school is Firefly Coffee House. The coffee is great here, the staff is laid back and friendly, and bagels are bomb. Like, they are so great that they needed 90's slang to describe them. Also, this place is dog-friendly and one time when I was waiting for my coffee I got to pet a six week old Boxer puppy. It was love.
What to order? My order depends on my mood and the seasonal jam on offer. Fruity jam? I go with a cinnamon sugar bagel, goat cheese, and jam. Jalapeno jam? Jalapeno cheese bagel, goat cheese, and jalapeno jam. If I'm feeling super hungry and adventurous: Original Breakfast Bagel, egg, cream cheese, and cheese with bacon and avocado added. To drink, the Nutty Irishman: a hazelnut and Irish creme mixture of amazingness.
Always busy but delicious, Zachary's delivers on homemade bread, enormous portions, and sourdough pancakes. Be aware this place is packed on the weekends and some weekdays.It's a great place to take your parents for brunch when they're in town.
What to order? I would definitely order either the sourdough pancakes, the junior Mike's Mess (you go full Mike's Mess if you like, but it's a lot of food), or Zach's "Old Fashioned." Mike's Mess is a combination of home fries, mushrooms, cheese, eggs, and bacon topped with green onions, sour cream, and tomatoes. The "Old Fashioned" is poached eggs served on an herbed roll topped with cream sauce and bacon. Served with a side of home fries. Get some toast here. The molasses oatmeal bread is fucking awesome.
It is hard to miss the bright green and yellow building with a line out the door on Mission Street. The favorite of college students (it's not far from campus) and a great place to take visitors from out of town. Get here as early as possible or come way before you want to eat because wait times can be up to an hour on the weekends and some weekdays.
What to order? Fresh juices like all the juices. Watermelon juice? Yes. Coconut juice? Yes. Cashew fruit pulp juice? Yes. You need to order a juice. They're fresh made and delicious. Then you need a cup of coffee. All the Brazilian coffee. If you want something healthy and delicious, go for the acai bowl. Acai puree, strawberry, banana, and apple. Need something more filling? Order the orfeu negro. Two poached eggs, mozzarella cheese, black beans, and Brazilian salsa served with potatoes. Something simpler? Coffee with milk, baguette, and fresh fruit; this is called pingado.
The Picnic Basket
Okay, so this is not one of my favorite places. Then why did I put it here? Most of my favorite breakfast burrito places have closed: Taqueria El Dandy and Cafe Campesino, but the Picnic Basket is still open. They are locally owned by the same people who run Penny Ice Creamery. They really should stick to ice cream, but their breakfast burritos are damned tasty.
What to order? The breakfast burrito, of course. Their coffee is good, too. It's expensive, though. More than I want to pay for a plain cup of coffee.
With multiple locations, this is a Santa Cruz standard. They're not going to be everyone's favorite bagel. They're very dense and chewy. I happen to love them! It's hard to disappoint me with a bagel. They not only serve bagels but salads and soups.
What to order? Salt bagel with Cheese Louise (herbed cream cheese) or Pink Flamingo (a blend of lox and cream cheese with dill). Oatmeal Date bagel with Royal Palm (date-walnut cream cheese spread). Coffee is okay here. If you're at the Cedar Street store, I would skip the coffee at the Bagelry and grab one at one of Pacific Avenues numerous coffee shops.